Friday’s filing day won’t go down as a high point in U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan’s career. When the conflict among members of your own party gets so raucous you’re forced to flee the State House out the back door, that’s not good.
Unfortunately for Hassan and her fellow Democrats facing voters this fall, the news beyond the capitol walls is even worse.
The same day Hassan stopped by the Secretary of State’s office to file for re-election:
— Inflation hit another 40-year high, 8.6 percent;
— President Joe Biden’s approval rating plunged to -15.5 in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, with just 39 percent of Americans saying they approve of his performance
— Gas prices in New Hampshire hit a record-high average price of $4.96 a gallon, the ninth record-setting day in a row;
— The Department of Homeland Security announced plans to ship illegal immigrants detained at the border “farther into the interior of the country.”
All in one day.
Since then, The Wall Street Journal has reported Biden plans to go to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as part of his strategy to get more oil production. (He has declined to meet with domestic oil producers.) And The New York Times reported, “Since President Biden took office, migration at the southwestern border of the United States has spiked to record levels, with more than 2.7 million encounters through the end of April.”
Hassan and her fellow incumbents, U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, have made it clear they want to campaign on abortion, healthcare, and increased social spending — with a small side of gun control and January 6. The delegation has held four all-member press events on the issue of abortion since September. They had one on the bipartisan infrastructure bill (with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg).
None on inflation, gas prices, crime, or immigration.
And despite primetime television hearings on the MAGA-fueled Capitol Hill attack or the attempted assassination of a U.S. Supreme Court justice over the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade, those other issues can’t seem to break through.
Inflation and high gas prices, on the other hand, are part of every political conversation. And based on the answers they gave Friday, Hassan and Pappas are still struggling to find the right way to talk about them.
“When you look around the world, inflation is happening in all developing countries and we are in a stronger position than many other countries,” Hassan told reporters Friday. “The bipartisan infrastructure bill has provisions that will help with supply chain issues and the labor force…but at the end of the day, there’s one group of people who want to help people lower their costs — gas prices, prescriptions drugs, the costs of child care — while others, my opponents stand with corporate interests who are driving prices up.”
Pappas also blamed big business for high prices during a Friday interview on WMUR.
Acknowledging that “the Biden administration took its eye off the ball when it comes to inflation,” Pappas then pointed to corporations as the source of the problem.
“We have to take on those — whether it is the big oil companies or big drug companies — that continue to reap record profits at the expense of Granite Staters,” Pappas said. “I’m the only one in this race willing to stand up to those forces.”
Pappas then repeated the debunked conspiracy theory embraced by Hassan and Kuster that oil companies are secretly manipulating gasoline prices.
“Look, we’re at the mercy of these big oil and gas companies for the way things are priced on a global basis. We’ve got to make sure there is transparency and accountability to the way things are priced.”
As has been reported by media outlets from the left and right, the Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly investigated claims “Big Oil” is gouging consumers through price manipulation. The result is always the same. No evidence.
President Barack Obama’s top economic advisors like Jason Furman and Larry Summers have mocked the claims as “dangerous nonsense” and “political ranting.”
From a fact, data, and evidence standpoint there is no difference between claiming Big Oil secretly manipulated gasoline prices and Democrats secretly manipulated the 2020 election.
Which doesn’t mean it won’t work. Americans have a long tradition of supporting populist bashing of big corporations, and one progressive polling firm claims a majority of Americans agree with Hassan and Pappas that “greedy corporations” are price gouging.
However, independent polling from Morning Consult shows 40 percent of Americans believe Biden is “very responsible” for rising inflation, but just 24 percent feel the same about big corporations. It also finds Americans trust Republicans more to handle inflation, 44 to 37 percent.
Will inflation and gas prices continue to make headlines between now and November, headlines that create headaches for Granite State Democrats? Probably?
But the one guaranteed source of political problems is the party’s president, Joe Biden.
Last week on Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show, Biden declared the U.S. “has the fastest growing economy in the world!” Not even close.
“Of course, the White House is saying, ‘It’s the best economy ever,'” said Kevin Hassett, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. “Joe Biden just said that on a comedian show, maybe that’s the right place for it. Because it’s a joke, right? I mean, we had negative first-quarter GDP and we’re almost negative in the second quarter.”
Biden’s public statements continue to create their own mini-crises and spread confusion, one reason (according to The New York Times) Democrats are already strategizing for how to make sure he doesn’t run for re-election next year. “The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue,” said Obama advisor David Axelrod.
Asked if she “would welcome President Biden up here on the campaign trail,” Hassan gave a very careful answer.
“I would always welcome the president of the United States to New Hampshire.”
No names, please.